Concrete has figured heavily in numerous architectural monstrosities, not least because the cheap, durable substance oozes despair and seems to suck up light. But this year, at the National Building Museum in Washington, the architect Aron Losonczi helped rehabilitate concrete’s cheerless reputation by demonstrating a new version of the substance more akin to glass than granite.
Losonczi, a 28-year-old from Csongrad, Hungary, is the inventor of LiTraCon (shorthand for ”light-transmitting concrete”), which is made by adding glass or plastic fibers to the usual blend of gravel, sand, cement and water. A LiTraCon wall, though sturdy, is as translucent as an oilskin lampshade. Shadows seep through from one side to the other, even if the slab is of prison-grade thickness.
Losonczi has created a company to market his brainchild, but buildings made of LiTraCon are most likely way off. Translucent concrete is tough enough for the task, but the glass or plastic fibers make it too expensive for most large-scale construction. The most sensible commercial use might be see-through barriers of the sort that shield the halls of government from car bombs. Since 9/11, the United States may have a bunker mentality, but that doesn’t mean our bunkers need be drab.